Saturday, August 11, 2012

BOY MEETS BOY by David Levithan

Levithan, David. Boy Meets Boy. Knopf, 2003. 185 pages. Tr. $13.41, ISBN: 978-1-41559-581-7

Plot: Paul is gay and everyone knows it, and no one really cares. Paul lives in a town in which anything LGBTQ is acknowledged and accepted. His best friend Tony is also gay but he lives in a much different town. Tony can’t come out and he is tormented by the idea of the retribution and judgment he would face if he did.
            Paul’s best friend from elementary school, Joni, starts going out with Chuck, a cruel jock who insulted Paul’s friend, Infinite Darlene, a cross-dressing quarterback. Tony meets Noah one night when he is with his friends and he is immediately smitten. Noah goes to the same school, and they have trouble connecting but eventually begin a romance. Drama ensues when a neighborhood woman spies Tony and Paul in a friendly, consoling hug;Tony’s parents won’t let him see Paul at all. A still enamored ex-boyfriend of Paul’s re-emerges, prompting Noah to break up with him. Will Tony ever see Paul again? Can Paul organize the Dowager’s Dance AND win Noah back? He’s certainly going to try.

Critical Evaluation: This is a bit of a gay-themed Tale of Two Cities, and Levithan makes some wonderful points with the set up of the story. While the plot is driven by the typical teenage drama, the kiss, the ex, the traitorous ex-best friend, the strict parents, there is a larger issue that he tackles, which is why this book is considered a groundbreaking work in the field of young adult literature. What Levithan offers is a vision of what could be. What would it look like? If LBGTQ teens were accepted, the normal romance/friend issues would be the worst they would have to deal with. By introducing Tony’s world, Levithan shows the way most towns are now. The contrast is what makes the point: Paul’s world is free, Tony’s world is dark and inhibited. This juxtaposition of the settings creates a vision and an argument about freedom and equality that will resonate with anyone concerned with these issues of freedom and equal rights. It might also change minds.

Reader’s Annotation: Paul is gay and he lives in a town in which homosexuality is accepted, even celebrated, but that doesn’t mean that he can avoid drama.

Author bio: A native of New Jersey and graduate of Brown, David Levithan got involved with children’s literature when he landed an internship at Scholastic. He has worked there ever since; he’s now editorial director and the founder of the Push imprint, Scholastic’s foray into edgier YA books.
            Boy Meets Boy began as an annual letter to friends, and it was lauded as a groundbreaking novel. Levithan collaborates with other YA writers (John Green and Rachel Cohn). He has won two Lambda literary awards.

Genre: Part fantasy, part realistic.

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: Focus on the town and the “what if” scenario.
Focus on the romance – the boy meets boy, boy loses boy – and the friendship issues.

Reading Level/Interest Age: 14 +

Challenge Issues: The gay theme in this book has provoked many challenges. I would keep Levithan’s excellent essay on LGBTQ literature and libraries on hand. I would also keep a file with positive reviews and quotes from people about the book. Also, keep Levithan’s bio on hand. His role as an editor of YA books might help. Keep the library selection policy and reviews on hand so that you can give the person who is challenging the book copies right away.

Why Included: It is a groundbreaking YA novel.

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